<WARNING – FOUL TEMPERED RANTINGS – AURIA LOVERS PROBABLY OUGHT TO BACK OUT NOW>
<HONESTLY, I REALLY GO ON IN THIS ONE>
<OK THEN, DON’T SAY I DIDN”T WARN YOU>
Auria Appregret special report
I have been on a bit of an app binge the last few weeks. The reason is simple, I got a bonus and once my debts and the tax man had eaten most of it I had enough left for some pocket money. This is a bit of a novelty for me as I usually give myself a $10 a month allowance for apps, or thereabouts, which I agonize over spending. I also upgraded my beloved ipad2 to an ipad4 because I have noticed the extra load since audiobus came out and I started using loopy for more than 6 tracks..
Something I had promised myself for a while was Auria, mostly because it’s billed as a “Proper” DAW and I want to improve the mastering on my tracks. I knew it would creak on an ipad2 but promised myself I would buy it once I had an ipad4.
Well, “the pricier the App the bigger the AppRegret” they say.
Actually nobody says that but if I have my way they will one day.
It seems to me that one of the big problems with Auria, or it’s perception in the iOS music community, is that it is taken seriously by non-iOS musicians, and that gives it a load more respect than it deserves. Auria looks like a traditional DAW, so people who are familiar with that interface are impressed with it. Certainly it is billed as a “Proper” DAW for iOS, articles talk of iOS music coming of age etc. Sadly Auria is not a “Proper” DAW for iOS, it is a desktop DAW inexpertly shoehorned onto iOS, and it really shows.
Non iOS musicians have a tendency to look down on iOS musicians, the web is full of articles about iOS music apps being “toys”, and there is an overall snobbery that iOS music isn’t “serious”.
This is, of course, complete crap. Those of us old and warty enough to remember the 80′s and 90′s will remember many similar arguments. Electronic music isn’t ‘proper’ music, you can’t put an album together inside a computer, digital can never capture music the way analog can, software synths are not proper synths, hardware is always superior, analog is better, big desktop computers are OK for music but you can’t make an album on a laptop, and on and on and on. Every generation of innovators becomes the next generation of nay sayers.
The side effect of this snobbery however is that when an application like Auria comes along, that attracts the approval of non-iOS musicians, it gets taken very seriously indeed.
The sound data you are working with on an iPad is digital. No app is going to record your data any better than any other app. This is the beauty of digital sound recording. If I ACP/Audiobus a sound from a synth it will be identical in ANY piece of software I put it in. My 8 bar loop from Addictive Synth will be the same whether I paste it into Loopy, or Nanostudio, or BM2.
So what is it that an iDAW brings to the table? Two things, workflow and post processing. Workflow is how you get the sound into the app, how you can move it about, trim it, cut it, arrange it, duplicate and delete it. Post Processing is the adaptation of that sound: mix, master, compression, EQ levels, FX etc
While Auria allows you to record in directly with Audiobus (resource permitting) and you can record multiple tracks simultaneously from external sources, it fails where workflow is concerned. I have not heard anyone say anyone positive about workflow in Auria, the best I have heard from anyone is that ‘it is a pain but you get used to it’, most people seem to feel that it is awkward and laborious. Personally I think it is dreadful, everything in Auria works like a desktop application, the endless highlight>click menu>select process makes it miserable to work with on an ipad. Seriously, if you work in loops and you need to highlight>edit menu>duplicate just to copy/paste that loop ONCE there is a lot of tapping. At least on a desktop you would have a right click option, but on iOS its all menu/select. Bad bad bad.
So that leaves the post processing, and to be fair this is where most people agree that this is where Auria shines. I don’t. It may be that my club-destroyed ears are incapable of hearing the subtleties but I was very unimpressed with the basic out-of-the-box offerings. The Reverb is good, I can’t deny that, and it should be given that applying reverb to a couple of tracks appears to eat up the whole memory of the ipad. Chorus and delay were poor, to my ears both sounded awful. I was ambivalent to the compression, in fact i either didn’t notice it at all or it stepped on the sound so hard it made it sound lousy. The EQ was difficult to understand (thanks to the “this is how it looks in a proper studio, tweak my Hz!” interface) and I wasn’t at all impressed with the results. I am told that for a mere extra $30 there is an excellent EQ plugin that actually uses a visual/touch interface that you would expect from an iOS application in the first place, and also sounds great. This leads me to believe that the crappy interface and unimpressive results of the built in post processing is deliberate. It would be impossible to market a DAW without these built in FX, however as a business model there is no incentive to make them anything other than adequate, otherwise why would people buy the plugins? This is surely the weakness of the IAP model, dissatisfaction with the product is built in.
Auria struggles for resource on even the most up to date iPad. In my first foray with Auria I started getting “Freeze tracks” messages coming up only half a dozen tracks in. I was shocked, I had 6 parts pasted in (each only 8 bars long), and had only some EQ/Chorus/Reverb set on those, and Auria was running out of memory. An ipad, for all it can do, does not have extra RAM slots and is not expandable, if you are building an ipad application is would seem to make sense to build that application with some reference to the available resources on the hardware, once again this feels like a port from a desktop application. Even the Auria documentation when discussing track freezing mentions resource constraints on desktop, laptop and tablet…
After using Auria for a couple of tracks I am back using Nanostudio for the bulk of my work. Always unsure of my assessment, and aware of my grumpiness around apps I don’t get on with, I asked around to see if anyone else had had the same sort of experience with Auria. My sample size is not huge, probably too small to be significant really, but I did find a few people who are happy with it. It does sound like investing the extra money in the plugins improve the user experience considerably. I also heard from a number of people who, like me, have used it a couple of times and have uninstalled it or never used it again.
I would like to believe that a superior sound can be achieved using Auria, after all it cost me more than Nanostudio and BM2 together, however I am not prepared to throw good money after bad to find out. More importantly though I cannot work with that UI, when I am making music I work fast, very fast. If I am ‘in the zone’ I can get a whole track together and completed in a couple of hours, and for that to be possible I need a UI that doesn’t get in my way, and for that reason alone I am unlikely to be using Auria much in the future.